The history of the world is written by leaders. In this regard, it is natural that the question of leadership has always been one of the major concerns of the society. People have always respected individuals with an outstanding set of qualities conditioning the unusual destiny. Since the first stages of the evolution of society, leaders had an overwhelming impact on the processes peculiar to it and the way it evolved.
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At the same time, they could be taken as the products of society as it determines the appreciated values and preconditions the remedies a leader might use while trying to change the world. For this reason, every epoch might have a certain vision of the image of an outstanding person. However, there are also the universal values peculiar to any leader at any stage of the development of our society. Being appreciated by the world, these traits impact the attitude towards a person and his/her role in the history.
Cogitating about the question of leadership, it is crucial to admit the complex character of the concern and its long history. Ancient philosophers were the first to think about the nature of leadership and to investigate its background. Traditionally, a leader played the significant role in the functioning of a community protecting it and promoting its further evolution. The militarist character of the past societies resulted in the leaders acquisition of the qualities needed to lead an army and defeat enemies. Such values as courage, strategic thinking, etc. became an integral part of the image of a leader.
Yet, the periods of war were replaced by the periods of stable development which gave rise to the necessity of the development of some other qualities to manage a state. In this regard, the philosophers started to cogitate about the values crucial for a leader away from the battlefield. Surprisingly, the thinkers of various epochs had the similar points of view.
Therefore, the idea of the great significance of certain values for a leader was appreciated at every stage of the evolution of society. Analyzing the development of this question, one could admit the focus on the traits of characters which could be described as positive ones and on those which have the beneficial impact on the society. The formation of the image of these traits and the attitude towards them were obviously impacted by leaders who managed to contribute to the growth of a certain community and possessed these very qualities. The investigation of various epochs might evidence the stages of the formation of the valued qualities and the perception of a leader through the prism of the era.
Besides, Plato introduced the idea of The Philosopher King, a ruler who loves true knowledge, appreciates the cognition and promotes the evolution of a state (Plato 163). The Philosopher King became an ideal ruler combining the values appreciated by the society and impacting the further analysis of the activity of a certain leader. Markus Aurelius was one of the first prominent examples of the kings of this sort. Being a ruler of a giant Roman Empire at the height of its power, he combined the qualities appreciated at that period of time.
Markus Aurelius is known as the prominent philosopher who tried to investigate the nature of power, leadership, and human nature for his ancestors to realize the roots of leadership. He was sure that “justice, truth, temperance, fortitude” (Marcus Aurelius para. 6) were the major traits in the human life. Therefore, the role he has in the history and the attitude of the ancestors evidence that wisdom, nobility, and intelligence were the qualities appreciated at that period of time.
Therefore, to continue the discussion the character of Justinian could also be taken to speculate about qualities needed for a leader away from the battlefield. Historians accept his crucial contribution to the development of the European world and formation of the Western society. Being a great leader, he managed to reconsider approaches to numerous activities and conditioned the significant shifts in the structure of the society. At the same time, he is described as “deceitful, devious, false, hypocritical, two-faced, cruel, skilled in dissembling his thought, never moved to tears by either joy or pain” (Procopius para. 58) The given characteristic gives rise to various concerns.
The rejection of the emperor by his coevals is one of them. The negative connotations and terms used while describing the ruler (Procopius para. 59) prove the idea that the society did not respect these qualities within a leader, though, accepting his power to govern because of the social and religious matters. However, he tried to be careful to his visitors and realized the needs of his people making himself easy to access (Procopius para. 60). The combination of the wise and efficient rule, cruelty, lack of principles and thirst for murder impacted the image of Justinian and promoted the better understanding of the qualities appreciated by society.
Therefore, the world has always appreciated such values as mercy, wisdom, and nobility. It is not a mere coincidence that the majority of noble kings from the tails possess all these qualities. This fact gives rise to the better understanding of the impact the values had on a leader and the attitude of society towards him/her. A king, or any other ruler, should be fair and wise enough to manage his people and guarantee the prosperity of the state.
Only under these conditions, the power will be based on the peoples respect and support. It also results in the formation of the image of the kind leader who has paternal feelings to subjects. For instance, Charles is often described as “the mildest of men” (“The Monk of Saint Gall: The Life of Charlemagne, 883/4” para. 7), “the kind emperor” (“The Monk of Saint Gall: The Life of Charlemagne, 883/4” para. 10), etc. These facts evidence that the image of the leader evolves and the number of the needed values grows.
It is also crucial to investigate the perspective on the issue peculiar to another culture. Traditionally, the Eastern World had the similar vision of leadership and the values peculiar to a good leader. The peculiarities of the culture conditioned the creation of some local properties; however, the main idea remained the same. Nobility, wisdom, justice, etc. are the qualities essential for a leader in the Eastern World.
However, they should be supported by the religious commitment which results from the unique character of the local religion and conditions of the evolution of the Eastern society. Besides, cogitating about Saladins values, authors tend to underline his great devotion: “Saladin was very fond of hearing the Quran read”( Allen and Amt 149). This fact proves the importance of this aspect for a good leader. However, it would be mistaken to state that the Western world did not appreciate the religious commitment of a leader. It is an important value which was especially vital in the Medieval at the first stages of the evolution of Christianity.
Investigating the issue, the universal character of the values of a leader should be admitted. The evolution of the society and the blistering development of technologies did not introduce dramatic changes to the concept. People living in different epochs had the same idea about leadership. The explanation of this phenomena could be found in the fact that the appreciated values create the basis for the functioning of society and guarantee its further development. With the course of time, people might focus on various concerns peculiar to the epoch and acquire the new traits conditioned by the environment. However, the core remains unchanged as it reflects the human nature and basic characteristics of its character.
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If to speak about the impact the cultural context has on the values of a leader, it is impossible not to accept the influence of the environment on a person and the process of the acquisition of certain traits. Individuals are the product of the society which educated them. For this reason, a leader from the Western world will have a number of differences if to compare him/her with the leader belonging to the Eastern society.
These dissimilarities are conditioned by the cultural context peculiar to a certain region as a person is not able to avoid its influence. As mentioned above, Saladin enjoyed the Quran readings, while Marcus Aurelius preferred to read Plato or Aristotle (Marcus Aurelius para.2 ). However, they both were noble and wise rulers who managed to govern great states. This fact gives rise to the concern related to the impact of the cultural context on the noncore values of a leader while the crucial ones remain similar.
Comparing the above-mentioned leaders and their qualities with the Platos Philosopher King, the utopian nature of the concept should be admitted. Plato tends to prove the idea that a King, who is characterized by an outstanding love for knowledge, cognition, and truth, could be an ideal leader (Plato 164). Besides, it is only partially true as any individual presents a set of various qualities which influence his/her actions. Among the mentioned leaders, Marcus Aurelius could be taken as the best one to fit the Platos concept, however even he was not able to embody all qualities needed for an ideal leader. Therefore, the Philosopher King was the first work to suggest the set of values which later became appreciated by the world.
To summarize, the question of leadership has always been one of the major ethical concerns of the society. Nowadays, people still continue the investigation of this question formulating the principles according to which a leader should act. Yet, they have not changed significantly over the past centuries and society still appreciates wisdom, justice, nobility, etc. In this regard, the modern idea of a leader and his/her values are similar to the image which our predecessors had at the dawn of civilization as it is related to the core components of the interaction between people and the basic aspects of their nature.
Allen, Jane and Emilie Amt. The Crusades: A Reader. Toronto: Broadview press. 2003. Print.
Marcus Aurelius. The Mediations. Trans. George Long. n.d.
Plato. The Republic. Trans. Alan Bloom. New York: Basic Books/Harper Collins. 1968. Print.
Procopius. The Secret History. Trans. Richard Atwater. 1927.
The Monk of Saint Gall: The Life of Charlemagne, 883/4. n.d.